Ahead of the 2016 General Assembly, we speak to Patrice Gélinet, Board Member of the Council, Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) in France on the next stages of DAB rollout and the lessons to learn from other countries.
This article is available in French here
What are the next steps for DAB in France?
In 2015, the CSA decided to relaunch the process of deploying Digital Terrestrial Radio (“RNT”). This year, the first call for applications under this process has taken place and covers the regions of Alsace, the Hauts de France and the Lyon region (the extended allocations for Lille, Lyon and Strasbourg are covering most of each region). The CSA is now checking the admissibility of the 128 applications received. Selection will be this month, authorisations being issued in January 2017.
In parallel, following the deployment timetable published, the Council plans this year to launch calls for applications for Nantes, Rouen and Toulouse. A major restructuring of allocations in Paris, Nice and Marseille will also take place. Indeed, two Multiplexes in Nice, two multiplexes in Marseille and one in Paris never started. The passage of T-DMB to DAB + also allows for four additional radios per allotment. Finally, following the timetable, call for applications will continue to take place in 2017, 2018 and beyond
How can France learn from the experience of other countries in regards to DAB rollout?
The experience of other countries deploying DAB is the object of market research to study the factors contributing to its success (factors such as the radio landscape, the technical framework, the listening habits, the cost of diffusion or the advertising market).
As an example, Norway demonstrates the importance of the involvement of private radio stations in the DAB success that now brings that country to switch off FM. In contrast, in the UK, it is the public actor, the BBC, which has a decisive role. In France, the independent radio stations have shown their interest. The public operator Radio France, inside its objectives contract plan, is proposing to broadcast in RNT for FIP, Mouv’ and France Musique for areas where they do not have an FM frequency.
How can the radio industry better help France and other countries expanding DAB networks?
The role of industry is essential. In France, manufacturers will integrate DAB in receivers as soon as 20% coverage of the territory will be achieved. This figure should be quickly recognised in view of the planned deployment schedule. When this threshold will be reached, a communication campaign will be required to inform the listeners of the benefits of DAB. For example, Continental is conducting an experiment in Rambouillet which demonstrates the listening continuity DAB-FM-DAB. What one notices above all is the sound quality when listening switches from FM to DAB
What are you looking to hear or see from the industry and other governments at the General Assembly this year?
What the CSA expects is to know the level of commitment of radios, governments and industry. One of the arguments from opponents of DAB in France is that it does not work abroad. The GA should show otherwise